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How An Eight-Time Kona Finisher Manages The Balance

A leap of faith helped this triathlete thrive in work, family, and training.

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As an adventurous child growing up in Ireland, Ivan O’Gorman raced BMX bikes and rode horses. In his late teens, he played rugby for Ireland. It makes sense, then, that joining the corporate world in his twenties left O’Gorman slightly disillusioned. Working in marketing just wasn’t cutting it for the adrenaline junkie—though the money was fine, the work just wasn’t exciting. When presented with an opportunity to travel to the United States for six months to study bike-fitting with Retul, the familiar combination of fear and excitement was a sign he had to go.

O’Gorman is not known for playing it safe. Shortly after his six-month training, he was offered the opportunity to stay in the U.S. and work as an instructor with Retul. O’Gorman worked for the company through its acquisition by Specialized Bicycles, then decided to take another big risk: opening his own shop.

“There was a lot of fear,” O’Gorman admitted. “Fear of failure, potentially losing all our savings, having to crawl back to my previous employer to beg for my old job back! There were a lot of unknowns.”

But fear is where O’Gorman thrives. Five years later, his Boulder-based business, IOG Bike Fit and Consulting, is the top destination for cyclists and triathletes of all levels. On any given day, O’Gorman will work with recreational athletes, WorldTour cyclists, Olympians, and Ironman champions. “I went for it, and haven’t had a regret since,” O’Gorman said, now 42. “There’s lots of donkey work behind the scenes that needs to get done to run a business, but it is very fulfilling all in all.”

Being in the driver’s seat of his business also means he has a more flexible schedule for his family—O’Gorman and his wife, Anne-Marie Copely, have two children—and for training. Like so many other events in O’Gorman’s life, his triathlon story began with fear. “In 2008, I was at a bachelor party when I jumped off a boat without a plan. Bad idea, since I didn’t know how to swim!” Learning to stay afloat evolved into learning how to actually swim, which grew legs into completing a triathlon. O’Gorman did his first race a year after almost drowning, and quickly rose through the ranks of age-group racing. Despite being an eight-time Kona finisher, O’Gorman insists he still doesn’t swim that well: “That’s why I race Ironman,” he laughed. “ I have more time to catch those ahead of me on the swim!”

O’Gorman said the key to his success as an athlete is to perform a kind of cognitive triage: when he’s at work, he focuses on work. When he’s at home, his family is his priority. Ditto for training. “There is always an area of my life that seems time-starved, so I have to try to balance family, work and training as best I can. I’m not a 24/7 triathlete,” O’Gorman insisted. “I intentionally switch off, because Anne-Marie doesn’t even follow triathlon, so we don’t continue the topic much at home.”

When he does focus on triathlon, he makes the most of it. “It’s been important to learn how to add in enough training without putting either family or work over the edge. I can only give a limited amount of time to triathlon, so I do make the sessions count,” he said. “Even if it’s only a 30-minute run, I’ll get something done before the day gets out of control.”

A Day in the Life of Ivan O’Gorman

5 a.m. Wake up, coffee and journaling
5.45 a.m. Sunrise run or swim
7 a.m. Make breakfast for the kids and help get them ready for school while Anne-Marie heads out for a run.
9 a.m. Bike or swim
11 a.m. Bike fittings at IOG studio: “Usually I work with two to three riders per day.”
6 p.m. Head home, dinner with the family
8 p.m. Put kids to bed. “Anne-Marie and I usually enjoy a couple of hours chatting/scheming over a cup of tea, where we plan out the following day.”
10 p.m. Lights out